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My Take: Momma’s boy Tim Tebow meets playboy Tom Brady
Tim Tebow is having a great year, but the author says his appeal runs much deeper.
January 13th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Take: Momma’s boy Tim Tebow meets playboy Tom Brady

Editor’s note: Patton Dodd is the managing editor of Patheos and the author of The Tebow Mystique: The Faith and Fans of Football’s Most Polarizing Player.

By Patton Dodd, Special to CNN

Denver, Colorado (CNN) - A few weeks ago, a joke made its way around Denver about Tom Brady, the New England Patriots’ living legend, and Tim Tebow, the raw Broncos quarterback who is turning in a legendary season. It went something like this:

Tom Brady dies and goes to heaven and is greeted by God, who shows him to his new house – a cozy, modest home with a Patriots flag flying from the porch. “Gee, thanks God!” says Brady, feeling very special.

As Brady walks to his door, he notices another house down the street – a sprawling, gorgeous home with a 50-foot pole flying a Broncos flag, a swimming pool shaped like a horse, and a Tim Tebow jersey pinned to the front door.

“Um, God?” Brady begins. “I’m not ungrateful, but I don’t get it. I won three Super Bowls and went to the Hall of Fame. Why does Tim Tebow get a better house than me?”

God chuckles. “That’s not Tim’s house,” he replies. “That’s mine.”

It’s not a very good joke, but it neatly summarizes cultural attitudes toward Brady and Tebow, whose teams meet this weekend in the second round of the NFL playoffs.

Brady is a quarterback’s quarterback; his fellow players voted him the best player in football at the beginning of 2011, and he rewarded their admiration with another spectacular season. He’s been at this for a while – he was the winningest playoff quarterback of the last decade – and he’s settled into a life reserved only for guys like him: really good at sports, plus really, really, really good-looking.

Brady dated actress Tara Reid during his initial rise to fame, then settled into a relationship with actress Bridget Moynahan, with whom he had a child.

By the time the child was born, Brady had moved on to Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen, to whom he’s now married and with whom he’s built a Brentwood, California mansion. (Forbes named them the world’s highest-paid celebrity couple.)

Brady’s post-game press conferences can be fashion shows. When my wife and I lived in Boston, we would watch Patriots game coverage until the conference began so we could spy Brady’s gingham shirts, thick-knotted ties, and pocket squares. No matter how tough a game he played, Brady looked ready for the red carpet. The man can wear a suit.

Tebow is something else altogether – an apparently God-blessed raw talent who wins games with a little bit of passing and a whole lot of prayer. Haters aside, he’s the most popular athlete in the nation.

He’s also made football itself more popular this year, drawing in admirers who wouldn’t be watching otherwise. Last weekend’s Broncos-Steelers matchup drew the highest television ratings in the history of the wild card round.

A Zillow.com poll named Tebow America’s Most Desirable Neighbor, and anyone who has sat through one of Tebow’s press conferences (or read his autobiography) can see why. Whatever you think of his faith commitments, he’s the genuine article. He builds orphanages and visits with sick kids and deflects praise and plays the game like a kid whose parents wouldn’t let him go outside until all the chores were done.

Brady is the guy every teenage boy wants to be. Tebow is the guy every teenage boy’s mom wants him to be.

Both quarterbacks overcame low expectations. Brady was drafted in the sixth round and seemed destined to life as a backup until Drew Bledsoe was severely hurt in Brady’s second year. Tebow was drafted in the first round, a move that every expert opinion deemed a mistake.

Both emerged in breakout fashion. Brady’s first season as starter turned him into a famous football player. Tebow’s is turning him into a cultural phenomenon.

What’s the difference? Why is Tebow’s fame supercharged? Why does Brady get a Brentwood mansion with Gisele, but only a quaint house in heaven?

Recall that Brady’s rise happened in the fall after 9/11, which was also an era before media platforms were numbered like stars in the sky. The nation is in a different mood now, and for better or worse, we have new, more powerful ways of making people famous. Twitter, Facebook and a billion blogs helped Tebow saturate everything.

But the biggest difference is that, in Tebow’s case, religion is a factor. Brady, a cradle Catholic, became famous as an athlete. Tebow is becoming famous as an athlete, acolyte, and avatar all rolled into one.

Tebow the athlete is fun to watch with his passion and flashes of brilliance. Tebow the acolyte – the devoted follower of God – is easy to admire, and even those annoyed by public piety can be won over by his goodheartedness and the sheer joy with which he plays the game.

Perhaps most acutely, he’s a cultural avatar. The internet meme “Tebowing” took off because it’s a readymade symbolic gesture people can use to express themselves against our scoffing, serious times.

Brady is a great football player. Tebow is a great football story, and stories are immersive – they give us a chance to get involved, to see ourselves through them.

Tebow’s story tees up the questions that frame many people’s lives: Is God involved? Can he help us overcome? Can he help us win? What if he stops helping us – where is God when our critics are correct, when our flaws are exposed for everyone to see?

Saturday’s game will likely be the most-watched second round playoff game in NFL history. Millions will be watching because they want to see how the story will unfold, and the hero most of them will be rooting for is not the playboy, but the momma’s boy.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Sports

soundoff (1,294 Responses)
  1. Nwvotes

    Do you believe in the Power of Tim Tebow? Vote at Nationwidevote.com

    January 14, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  2. Monkey Man

    A long time ago, the world knew RAH was the Sun God, there was polytheism and people believe in Mountains and Seas, etc. then we found that to be utterly ridiculous and then we KNEW there was only ONE God. We KNEW the earth was flat and we KNEW the earth was the center of the Universe. Before we actually KNEW there was a galaxies. Now we KNOW GOD is Blessing Tim Tebow. Where is God for all the hideousness and atrocities occurring across the globe. God, the almighty Benevolent One is distracted by Tim Tebow. Silly Christians.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • carruth

      Gee, I was wondering where all the haters went....

      January 14, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Monkey Man

      I don't hate Tim Tebow. I like him. But I find this article and Christians to be quite amusing.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • carruth

      Then be amused and tolerant...I imagine his most unhappy days are much better than your good ones.....let it go

      January 14, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Monkey Man

      Then keep imagineing. If you need such things to be happy, I can only IMAGINE, you don't know what happiness is.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • carruth

      Hey monkey man I'm not even religious...just spiritual and I believe life as we know it wasn't created by a random 'electro-chemical' reaction....also a lot more tolerant than you...give a break brother and relax.....

      January 14, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • Monkey Man

      Oh, now you know me from a few written words, Anyone who uses the term, relax is obviously frustrated.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  3. TheLord

    One biblethumper in the NFL is indicative of the biblethumpers in the voting electorate. An insignifigant, but very vocal little group of nut jobs who really think they have sway over who will be the next president? Lol, clowns.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • carruth

      Got a real hang up with that 'love & peace thing' don't you....the so called tolerant people are by far the most intolerant........have a great life being bitter.....

      January 14, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Monkey Man

      Rick Santorum appears to be one of those TOLERANT one's. What does he want to do again?

      January 14, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Monkey Man

      Tolerance in Gays, Tolerance in religious differences, in diffierent cultures. Christians seem to be good at that.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  4. SurRy

    "Tim Tebow is the guy every teenage boy's mom wants him to be." Very presumptuous of the male writer to claim to know what all mothers want for their children.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  5. stvnkrs10

    Will this theory of yours hold true when Tebow finally comes out of the closet?

    January 14, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Monkey Man

      LMFAO!

      January 14, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  6. Jason

    "Brady is the guy every teenage boy wants to be. Tebow is the guy every teenage boy’s mom wants him to be." - Ah, take it a step further: Tebow would be the guy every father/mother would prefer their daughter to be married to 😀 Integrity, humility speak volumes for stability/trust!

    January 14, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Jim

      We are oft to blame in this,–
      'Tis too much proved–that with devotion's visage
      And pious action we do sugar o'er
      The devil himself.

      -Hamlet, Scene I

      January 14, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Jman

      You ever see Tebow in an interview? His "humility' is very tongue in cheek. He's not the only player involved with charity & he usually comes across as pretty arrogant. But he loves Jesus, so I guess that's ok.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Charlene

      I have two daughters and would prefer them to be with Brady, since Timmy is obviously in the closet.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  7. JB

    NO
    Every mother does NOT want a Tim Tebow for a son.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • SurRy

      A-men!

      January 14, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • peter shaffer

      I'm with you on this one.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Jason

      If my sister dated one of these two men, I'd feel she'd be treated with much more dignity/respect by someone like Tebow than Brady - and that says a lot about a man's true character.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  8. Doug Davis

    Both Brady and Tebow are better human beings than every lib that has posted in this forum, they are not Democrats. Neither Brady or Tebow wants to take away the rights of Americans who don't vote like they do. Neither Brady or Tebow has gone through life without every feeling remorse or taking responsibility for their actions. Neither Brady or Tebow has displayed a total disregard for human life on the roads due to their insane narcissism and selfishness.

    Jersey Shore gives you a nice glimpse into how Democrats in the bluest parts of America act and think, but you really need to spend a week and drive around in the bluest parts of America to totally understand just what Democrats are.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Steve

      If you honestly believe that, like truly and honestly, then I don't know how you function. Use some critical thinking once in a while, huh?

      January 14, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Jim

      This has to be a Poe.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • JB

      Blue and Red , conservative and libs

      Do you even know any other vocabulary words?
      These are such delusional illusions of BS used to distract and control the likes of YOU by the tools in power in this country.
      LEARN TO THINK FOR YOURSELF AND STOP HATING.

      JESUS HATES HATERS.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • JB

      Blue and Red , conservative and libS

      Do you even know any other vocabulary words?
      These are such delusional illusions of BS used to distract and control the likes of YOU by the tools in power in this country.
      LEARN TO THINK FOR YOURSELF AND STOP HATING.

      JESUS HATES HATERS.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • SurRy

      Doug, do mommy and daddy know you are on their computer?

      January 14, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Doug Davis

      Those who think attacks can counter facts are known as Democrats, not that more proof of this was needed but thanks anyway.

      I don't get how someone else's religion can make someone foam at the mouth and wish them death, but it sure does speak volumes about Democrats in America today. This united group of Democrats that want to cause harm to each and every Christian and their family makes it clear that the National Socialist Democrats of today are even more evil than their klan starting Democrat forefathers.

      Every American who can feel remorse, takes pride in being honest and factual, and could never image wishing someone harm just because of their ideology or religion has a moral obligation to vote Republican, the hate spewed by each and every Democrat makes that undeniable.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  9. Jilli

    Oh C'mon...

    I prefer to remain grounded in reality. It wasn't god's intervention that lead to the last broncos win, it was bad coverage by the opponent. It isn't divine intervention that lead to any of his wins – it's play calling and coverage – human intervention.

    I guess if we use the logic (?) of the proponents of Tebows success as the result of his christianity, Tebow's god likes Aaron Rodgers more.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  10. ron mcloughlin

    In answer to christos "Jesus" real name began with I as in I N R I on the Cross. Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews. Latin had no I or Y and the Romans spoke Latin. The word for Jew in Arabic is Yuhudi. The words "Christ" ("annointed one" in Greek) and Christian were Greek inventions as was "Jesus" (hey-sus) which rhymes with Zeus (zey.oos) the major god of Greece. Christianity was a triple play by the cagey Greeks. It estd monotheism, ridiculed the pagan Romans and set the Jews up for having rejected the Messiah, which means annointed one in Hebrew.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  11. Luke

    j/k

    January 14, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  12. Alexander Hamilton

    more narratives about people who columnists don't actually know, personally.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  13. CRC

    If Wall street, bankers, CEO's, etc., Obama, congress and senate were like Tebow we would not have the problems we do; the problem is they are all like Brady. I know which one I want and if you don't know I'll just write you off as a hopeless case.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Jim

      If they kneel and thank the sky when they actually do something right? How would that help?

      January 14, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Jman

      You sound like the hopeless case...making idiotic generalizations about people you've never met and only know threw what you read in the papers. I have a brain in my head and an open mind.....you don't sound so bright.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  14. Reason & Logic

    Brady is a product of the game's changing rules while Tebow is a throwback to the NFL's earlier years. Tebow can play in any era of the NFL, Brady couldn't.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Luke

      You're clearly not very bright and don't know anything about football.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Monkey Man

      Really?? Dude Tebow had a fantastic game last week. Steelers were injured, had key players out due to disease (Sickle Cell Anemia) and played a sub par game. And Denver STILL only one buy 1 OT Touchdown. Give me a break. Denver is toast against the PATs. Play in any era? What? As if that has any relevance on anything.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  15. Dot8

    Tim Tebow is a messenger of God, people should follow his religious message if they want to improve quality of life.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  16. Lauren

    If i had a son i would NOT want him to take after a man...ooooops, coward, who left his son's mother in the middle of her pregnancy to "hookup" with a super model, impregnate her and marry her because of "star power value".....Tebow may not be the best pro baller but at least his values are in check....: )

    January 14, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Jman

      First of all, the pregnancy with Moynihan was discovered AFTER the two of them had split up. I'm glad there are people out there like you that pass judgement on people they have never met before and know nothing about. Simpleton.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  17. Rim

    This will boil down to the same thing that always happens in the religious community. If it goes well then it was the hand of God, if it doesnt, then God had nothing to do with it.
    Point is Tom Brady will dismantle the Broncos worse than Scientific evidence has dismantled religions credibility.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • elflander

      So you're suggesting that the Broncos stand a good chance of winning?

      January 14, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  18. Jilli

    I'll take Brady. There are many Christians on the football field, but they don't wear their religion on their sleeves. Because of his Christianity, the media has taken an average quarterback and made him a messiah. I've had more than enough of it. Go Patriots!! – please win so the media will turn off the Tebow bull horn.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  19. Isaac

    If Tebowsus kept his blind faith where it belonged... to himself.... like countless other NFL players do I'd have no problem. But his in your face "oh look how super christy I am" crap just ticks me off. I can't stand the patriots but I hope they win this game today so we won't hear anymore about Tebow.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • ron mcloughlin

      But dont U agree, it makes for good copy. It's almost the quintessential example of Good vs. Evil, David defeats Goliath.Love vs hate. It's the essence of good writing and reading.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Jason

      Those in the "dark" will always find the light of truth annoying ... your conscious ~~ Or in "Christian" language: The Holy Spirit working in your heart!

      January 14, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • carruth

      You sound like a very unhappy man, relax take a deep breath and try to be tolerant....if you don't believe great.....he does...what's your problem with a little 'peace & love'.....have a great day....

      January 14, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  20. Doug Davis

    The only thing the Democrat hates more than Tebow's Christianity is his WORTHWHILE charity..

    January 14, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Luke

      Who is the "Democrat?" Learn how to write and sentence.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Luke

      J/K.. Tebow is the great!

      January 14, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • carruth

      Hey Luke in the process of being critical you messed up...I think you meant, "learn how to write A sentence" not AND.....you probably meant construct a sentence

      January 14, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Doug Davis

      Who is the Democrat Luke? Let me help you, go grab "and" mirror.

      January 14, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.